Trust in World Politics Working Group

It has been generally accepted that trust is imperative to constructive interpersonal and international interaction and cooperation. The trust working group engages with theoretical debates and empirical puzzles, focusing on the nature, forms, and roles of trust, as well as the dynamic stages of trust-building across individual, group, organisational, community, national, and international levels. Our research is varied but primarily aimed at understanding the role of trust for cooperation, the relationship between trust and culture and the dynamics between trust and distrust.

We welcome research collaborations with scholars and students (PGR, PGT and UG) who are interested in any aspects of trust. If you are interested in research on trust or want to get involved with our working group, please contact Scott Edwards:

The Trust Working Group is part of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS).

About us

Our interdisciplinary Trust Working Group brings together senior and junior scholars who seek to effectively investigate the holistic content and dynamic processes of trust through a variety of empirical case studies. Our team collectively has extensive expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, spanning from experiments, large-N surveys, in-depth elite interviews, ethnographic research, content and discourse analysis, and document analysis. Our working group sits within the Institute for Conflict Cooperation and Security (ICCS), holds monthly research meetings at the University of Birmingham, hosts research talks with both internal and external speakers, and organises methodology workshops that are open to all. We collaborate closely with the International Political Psychology Group (IPoPsy), and we are members of the First International Network on Trust (FINT), the British International Studies Association (BISA), and the International Studies Association (ISA).


We are currently working on the following projects – please contact us if you want to join any of our research projects, gain valuable research experience, share expertise, and develop your own research alongside ours.

Members from ICCS

The Challenge of Building Trust Between Adversaries: This project pioneers the application of the concept of interpersonal trust to the international level, focusing on the psychological dispositions and interactions that lead political leaders to accept vulnerability in their interactions with the leaders of states with whom their state is in an adversarial relationship. The project examines how new trusting relationships that overcome the barriers to trust can be made possible (e.g. peaceful/defensive self-images, and bad faith models of the adversary). For more information, contact Nicholas Wheeler.

The development of trusting relationships in ASEAN: This project develops a multi-dimensional concept of trust, where the belief that constitutes trust has multiple sources of evidence that develop as a relationship does, which it applies to the development of trusting relationships in ASEAN. By exploring whether trusting relationships can eventually be maintained by trusting behaviour as practice, furthermore, it suggests a way in which trust between individuals can institutionalise - stabilising the trusting relationship by embedding trust as practice into a structure. Scott Edwards.

Trusting Relationships in Multilateral Agreements: This project focuses on the cooperation between nuclear weapon states. Is it meaningful to discuss trusting relationships between more than two individuals/groups/states? Can networks of trusting relationships exist? While research on trust has mostly focused on conceptualising dyadic relationships, this project examines the role trust might play in multilateral settings. For more information contact Ana Alecsandru.

A Counterfactual Study of the US - Iran Nuclear Relationship: This project looks at US-Iran relations through the prism of the security dilemma and multidisciplinary theorising on the concept of empathy. Although the project does not look specifically at trust, the researcher is broadly interested in the relationship between trust and empathy in processes of conflict resolution, and how mistrust can become institutionalised and deeply embedded in conflicts such as that between the United States and Iran. For more information contact Josh Baker.

Institution-based Trust (the Moscow Washington Hotline) in Cold War superpower relations: This project investigates the interaction between interpersonal and institution-based trust and their relationship to cooperation in international crisis situations. It examines two cases: the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. For more information contact  Eszter Simon.

Social Identity and Trust: This project applies psychology models of social identity to issues of trust and cooperation in post-'Troubles' Northern Ireland. For more information contact Sumedh Rao.

Organizational Reputations of Efficacy and Reliability and Media Responses to Blame: This project draws on theoretical insights in political psychology and public policy to examine the impact of reputations on political decision making. It investigates how organizational reputations of efficacy, generating expectations of confidence, and reputations of reliability generating expectations of trust, can predict the types of responses international business organizations provide when implicated in scandals or allegations of bad business practice, such as child labour or unsafe working conditions. For our data analysis we match data on international organizational reputations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) with content analysis data of organizational scandal and account coverage. For more information contact Tereza Capelos.

The Creation of the Hotline: This project focuses on the interaction of trust in different levels, but looks at this interaction more from the direction of the micro (interpersonal) level than on the mezo (group/state) level, taking into account insights from psychology. For more information contact  Eszter Simon.

Members from the Birmingham Business School

The role of trust and distrust in patient safety:  This research undertaken with Carole Doherty (Surrey University) and Charitini Stavropoulou (City University) examines the patient clinician relationship and the role of trust and distrust in enabling and disabling patient safety. A sample of elective surgery patients and their caregivers narratives prior, during and post treatment provides insights into their experiences and the role of trust and distrust and their attitudes to decision making.  Early findings indicate implications for the process of gaining patients consent, the utility of consent forms, and in particular the consequences of too much trust. For more information contact Mark Saunders.

Intra-organisational trust and distrust across cultures: This research scrutinises the relationship between trust and culture and questions whether trust is a universal (etic), as the current literature mainly assumes, or context and culture specific (emic). The importance of the relationship between culture and trust is increasingly recognised as central to the trust research and there have been calls for more emic approaches. In response to such calls, this research explores the relationship between culture and trust and also culture and distrust. Firstly, this research investigates the relationship between trust and distrust, providing empirical evidence on the continuing debate on the nature of distrust, and then explores how trust and distrust is formed across different cultural settings. For more information contact Neve Isaeva at

Building trust in virtual relationships: This project focuses on the development of trust between managers and employees of virtual sales teams. Much of the trust literature has focused on traditional working relationships, and the manager-employee dyad has been identified as one of the most important intra-organisational trust relationships. However studies of virtual teams have largely focused on employee-employee relationships, much of the research being conducted in laboratory settings. This research, conducted within multinational ICT companies, offers insights to organisations and dyad members about the range of antecedents of trust development in the manager-employee virtual dyad.  For more information Contact Colin Hughes at

Working Group Members

Academic members:

NameJob titleSchool or Department
Dr Tereza CapelosSenior Lecturer in Political Psychology
Director for the MSc in Global Cooperation and Security
Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security
Dr Sara FregoneseBirmingham FellowSchool of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr Adam QuinnSenior Lecturer in International PoliticsDepartment of Political Science and International Studies
Professor Mark NK SaundersProfessor of Business Research Methods
Director of Postgraduate Research Programmes
Department of Management
Dr Eszter SimonResearch Fellow in International Relations and PsychologyInstitute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security
Professor Nicholas J. WheelerProfessor of International Relations
Director of the The Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security
Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Nicholas WrightSenior Research FellowInstitute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security

Doctoral Researchers:

Latest research news

Posted 09 August 2017

Podcast: Roundtable: The UK terror attacks

Between March and June 2017, the UK suffered four separate terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park which killed 36 people and injured over 200. The Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) at the University of Birmingham brought together a cross-college panel of experts to address issues of radicalization, security and foreign policy, policing and intelligence, and counter-terrorism legislation. The panel explored the possible motivations for the attacks, review counter-terrorism policy in view of the uncertain state of UK domestic politics, and discuss how to mitigate the likelihood of similar attacks in the future.

Posted 20 July 2017

Liberal Arts Internship

The ICCS is pleased to welcome Ayesha Hashim, who joins us for a 5 week internship organised and funded by Liberal Arts & Natural Sciences.

Posted 19 July 2017

Joan McGregor awarded Honorary Doctorate

The ICCS is delighted that our friend and colleague Joan McGregor was conferred as a Doctor of the University at the graduation ceremony in July.

We welcome research collaborations with scholars and students (PGR, PGT and UG) who are interested in any aspects of trust. If you are interested in research on trust or want to get involved with our working group, please contact Scott Edwards:

The Trust Working Group is part of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS).